One of the greatest of Republican Senators in the 1970s and 1980s, Senator Charles Mathias of Maryland, passed away yesterday, leaving behind a legacy of great contributions!
Mathias, a liberal Republican when there were many outstanding such individuals in the Republican party, served in the Senate from 1969-1987 after eight years in the House of Representatives. He was one of a band of liberals, including Charles Percy of Massachusetts, Mark Hatfield of Oregon, Lowell Weicker of Connecticut, Jacob Javits of New York, Clifford Case of New Jersey, and Edward Brooke of Massachusetts who were major contributors to American politics and were willing to cross the political aisle and promote major reforms.
Mathias promoted progressive ideals including racial reconciliation, campaign finance reform, opposition to the war in Vietnam, promotion of the Equal Rights Amendment, advocacy of environmental reforms, and prohibition of warrantless wiretaps to preserve the guarantees of the Bill of Rights. He opposed President Nixon on many issues, condemned his involvement in the Watergate scandal, and distanced himself from President Reagan in the 1980 Presidential election.
Mathias was above all a man of principle and great courage, and the fact that he was a leader of the fight for limiting the influence of money in politics is ironic just as the Supreme Court has destroyed a century of campaign finance reform, including the McCain-Feingold legislation of this past decade, in its destructive decision of a week ago. Are we to go backwards and turn people off to voting, or to go forward toward responsible campaign finance control? This is the legacy that Charles Mathias leaves us, to fight for what he believed in and what anyone who believes in fairness would want: No corporate control over political campaigns!